MISSIONARY PRAYER INTENTION - Holy Father's Missionary Intention for February 2011: “That Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ in serving those who suffer from disease in those mission territories where the fight against disease is most urgent”. Commentary.Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – During his earthly life, Jesus was always close to human suffering. The experience of healing the sick occupied a great part of his public mission. They brought Him the sick, the crippled, the blind and lepers. This was a bond of pain experienced often in social exclusion, and considered the result of personal sin or by their parents (cfr. Jn 9:2). St Augustine called Jesus “the humble physician”. He travelled the world doing good and curing the sick.
Benedict XVI stated: “Despite the fact that illness is part of human experience, we do not succeed in becoming accustomed to it, not only because it is sometimes truly burdensome and grave, but also essentially because we are made for life, for a full life. Our 'internal instinct' rightly makes us think of God as fullness of life indeed, as eternal and perfect Life” (Angelus, 8 February 2009).
Sometimes the pain and impotence caused by illness can put our faith to the test. Believers have the duty to help their brothers and sisters to find sense of the suffering in the cross of Jesus Christ and to continue to pray, asking God for the grace to “know suffering”. We must be for them the closeness of God in their pain.
To the question raised by illness, God answered in Christ Jesus: “God whose Face he himself revealed is the God of life, who frees us from every evil. The signs of his power of love are the healings he performed. He thus shows that the Kingdom of God is close at hand by restoring men and women to their full spiritual and physical integrity” (Benedict XVI, ibid.).
But these physical healings are not ends in themselves. They are signs that speak of the need for a deeper healing. The most serious illness that affects humans throughout time is the absence of God, source of truth and love. In Christ, God became Good Samaritan for us. Through the incarnation he became “our neighbour”. He took upon his shoulders the role of Good Shepherd and brought us to the inn, which is a symbol of the Church. He healed our wounds with the oil of the sacraments, to bring us back to good health.
Speaking of the full meaning of Christ's ministry, the Pope affirms that “only reconciliation with God can give us true healing, true life, because a life without love and without truth would not be life. The Kingdom of God is precisely the presence of truth and love and thus is healing in the depths of our being. One therefore understands why his preaching and the cures he works always go together: in fact, they form one message of hope and salvation” (Benedict XVI, ibid.).
The ministry of Christ continues through the Church. It continues to heal humankind with the grace of the sacraments, while, engaged in thousands of charitable activities, she eases the pain of those who suffer, being for them the loving presence of God. Let us pray that many Christians – priests, religious and laity – who assist the sick around the world, continue to be the Hands and the Heart of Christ for their brothers and sisters in mission countries. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). (Agenzia Fides 29/1/2011)